1960 Gibson Melody Maker 3/4 Electric Guitar (Modded)

Like last week's Danelectro Pro, I bought this Melody Maker as a husk -- no bridge, no pickup, no pickguard, no wiring harness, no tuners -- only the bridge studs, strap buttons, and truss cover were left. I ostensibly bought it for resale, but I've got a bit of a crush on it and it's, ya know, just about the right size for future teenage daughters to maybe find rock-n-roll worthy? I mean -- I find it rock-n-roll worthy!

As everyone who's seen it can attest -- the finish is beautifully abused. It has just about the perfect crackle and wear and tear that you might expect some relic-head had studiously devoured it over many late nights. Yeah -- that's not the case. It's real.

This type of Melody Maker is the student-size model -- so 3/4 size. That gives it a 12-fret neck joint and a short, 22 3/4" scale length. My "home base" for this sizing is actually from the Valco/National/Supro models of the same era that totally copycat this guitar's basic size, shape, and pickup placement... so it's funny to play the "real" thing and find it so much more worthy. But then -- it's a Gibson! The Valco stuff is killer in its own way, but... well! You know.

After doing fretwork, installing a nut, and cutting a replacement pickguard, I was left to wait until Friday afternoon when the parts I purchased for it arrived. On went some nice aluminum, "aged" bridge posts. On went the new, aluminum, MojoAxe "aged" wraparound bridge (these are compensated for 3-wound, 3-plain and worth every penny). On went the new Gotoh "aged" Kluson-a-like tuners. In went the wiring harness, "aged" knobs, and Artec-made "Premium" staple-style P90 pickup.

The pickup is worth mentioning in detail, though. Staple P90s are not really P90 pickups at all. The original Gibson stable pickups are built like DeArmond DynaSonic pickups with 6 Alnico magnet polepieces (Fender-style) sitting in a coil and fit with a complex adjustment system to raise and lower them to fine-tune string-to-string balance. This version of that same idea dispenses with the adjustment system and so can fit in a "normal" pickup cavity depth. To adjust string-to-string balance, one simply taps the polepieces up/down with a small hammer -- just like you would on Fender pickups. I've dialed this one in for 3-wound, 3-plain stringing -- the wound string poles sit up much more than the unwound poles, with the G's pole being the lowest.

Anyway, the sound of a Staple P90 is clean, bright, clear, and ballsy. It's the sound of the early Gretsch rockabilly guitars -- bitey, a little surfy, a little twangy, and very bold. They slice and dice but have a bit of that Tele-style low-end deep clang. It's hard to describe. DynaSonics are among my favorite pickups ever and so I knew that fitting a DynaSonic-a-like to the bridge of this guitar would suit my tastes. It's also different from the plethora of Melody Maker revamps using P90s out there... while still looking vaguely "trad-Gibson."

There are two video clips above -- one's in open E (where I like this guitar) and one's in standard (so you're not confronting alien voicings). I think you can tell that I'm having fun with this guitar -- it's a bit like driving a sports car. While the neck is bigger front-to-back, it's narrow side-to-side and the reduced scale makes all sorts of stretches feel fast, fast, fast. It's almost too nimble.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, new bone nut, replacement pickguard and wiring harness cut/install, replacement tuners install, new bridge and posts, pickup fit/install, and setup.

Setup notes: action is perfect at 1/16" overall at the 12th fret. The neck is straight, the frets are in good shape and have a lot of life left in them, and the truss rod works as it should. I'm running 52w-12 gauge strings on here, with an unwound G. Anything lighter for standard-tuning and the feel would be ickily-slinky. The tension at this very-short scale with 12s is still less than 10s at a more-normal scale length.

Scale length: 22 3/4"
Nut width: 1 9/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 5/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 17"
Lower bout width: 12 7/8"
Waist width: 7"
Upper bout width: 9"
Side depth at endpin: 1 1/4"
Body wood: mahogany
Neck wood: mahogany
Fretboard: rosewood, bone nut
Bridge: MojoAxe compensated wraparound, aluminum "aged"
Neck feel: medium full C-shape, ~10" board radius

Condition notes: it's beat-up! It's had a Teisco-style whammy installed at some point! There are scratches everywhere. The finish is crackled everywhere. There are so many replacement parts. But, hey, it's all in good taste, so no foul.

If you look closely, you can see the compensated change-up to the top ridge on the bridge.

The original tuners would've been cheaper openback tuners, but I'm not going to complain aboutrelic'd Gotoh Kluson-a-likes.